The Halifax Rainmen picked a bad time to play their worst statistical quarter of the season.
The Rainmen put up a season-low 14 points in the second quarter and — despite holding the edge in three other stanzas — were unable to recover in a 108-104 loss to the Lawton-Fort Sill Cavalry in the opener of the Premier Basketball League best-of-three semifinals before a crowd of 1,925 at the Metro Centre on Thursday.
The Cavalry grabbed the lead 1:40 into the second quarter and used a 17-point edge in that frame to bury the Rainmen, who never led again.
“That quarter hurt us a lot,” conceded Rainmen centre Larry Turner.
Point guard Gary Ervin piled up 13 of his team-high 26 points in the final 3:07 of the game to bring the Rainmen to life and give the crowd hope of a comeback. His two free throws with 25.2 seconds to go narrowed the gap to one, 105-104, but the Cavalry regained a three-point edge a fraction of a second later on a pair of free throws.
A rare Ervin miss and a Tony Bennett turnover in the final 24.3 seconds sealed the Rainmen’s fate.
“Throughout the whole game we made mistakes we shouldn’t make, allowing transition baskets,” Ervin said. “We’re not going to blame it on one quarter. We had a chance to win the basketball game in the final minute. Those are opportunities you have to take advantage of, especially at home.”
Cavalry head coach Michael Ray Richardson, who called his club’s second-quarter defence “unbelievable” and the “key to the game,” said his game plan was to limit Halifax on the offensive glass. The Rainmen had just seven offensive boards, more than half their season average.
“Limit them to one shot,” he said. “If you keep them off the glass, they’re in trouble.”
The Rainmen are indeed in trouble, with Games 2 and 3, if necessary, in Oklahoma on Sunday and Tuesday, both at 10 p.m.
“This series is far from over,” Ervin said. “Just like they stole one here, we can go there and steal two.”